We settled into our respective tourist roles today: Silas, the tour gruide, Rhonda, general mood manager and people watcher, Joseph the photographer and Peter, wonderfully in his own world fixating here and there on whatever caught his interest.
Our little group moved through the day kind of like an ameoba, trying to stay together as differeing needs pushed and pulled in different directions. Peter needed to stop and watch every little documentary playing in the obscure corners of the Natural History Museum. Silas needed us to keep going. Joseph needed to take pictures of random artifacts and things we will not even be able to identify when we look back on them.
Once at the end of our day, all four of us converged suddenly and unexpectedly in front of the painting of the Death of Socrates in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was on Silas’s agenda. The drama of the painting attracted my interest. The boys began asking questions. We transformed in a moment from tired tourist family into something else, something you could never plan.
“Why is he taking the poison?” Joseph asked.
“The government ordered him to do it,” I said, “but he could have escaped to a different city. He decided to die bravely like that, but all of his friends think he shouldn’t do it.”
“Why did the government order him to do it?” Peter asked.
“Well,” Silas said, “his ideas challenged the government in some ways. they were afraid he was leading the young people astray.”
We all stood there pondering it for a while, each in our own way. I was looking at the grieving faces of the people gathered around Socrates, just as I had been looking at faces all day, faces in the subway and on the street and in Central Park.
As we walked away from the painting Joseph was still thinking about the painting. “Why was he pointing up like that?” he asks.
“I don’t know,” I said. Silas didn’t know either. And so the question lingers as we head back on the subway to Menno House.